Welcome to the Blue Economy of Biomimicry and Doughnuts where Companies are for Good and deliver Net Positive impact … the best ideas on sustainability

August 30, 2022

Sustainability is one of my big topics, and in vogue with every business, yet still lacking effective models for strategic thinking and effective implementation.

We all know the challenges. During the last 150 years, we have stressed the oceans, warmed the planet and overextended almost every natural resource. Now we live in a world of extreme challenges and consequences. Relentless financial crises. Extreme inequalities in wealth. Remorseless pressure on the environment.

Anyone can see that our economic system is broken. But can it be fixed?

Here are some of the most interesting books I’ve read over the last year, seeking to curate and connect the best ideas so that I can practically help business leaders to embrace sustainability in a way that creates a better world, but also drives sustainable profitable growth and value creation.

Blue Economy 3.0: The Marriage of Science, Innovation and entrepreneurship Creates a New Business Model that Transforms Society.

Gunter Pauli describes the Blue Economy as “10 years – 100 innovations – 100 million jobs”. He rejects the green economy as too limited, but instead sets out the concept of a “Blue Economy business model” that has the potential to radically change our society from scarcity to abundance, tackling issues that cause environmental problems from new angles.  He demonstrates his vision with a new business model which he came across in China where novel paper production turns crushed rocks, including mining waste that has piled up over centuries into sheets  for printing, writing and packaging without the use of water, without cutting down a tree, and recyclable forever. It details how thistles, considered a weed, is turned into a plastic, a lubricant and a herbicide converting an old petrochemical plant into a biorefinery.

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

Kate Raworth has created a simple model for growing sustainably, which is currently being adopted in cities across the world – from Amsterdam to Berlin. She says that trapped by its own powerful but outdated myths, mainstream economics is profoundly unfit for tackling 21st-century challenges – from financial instability to climate change and widening inequality. It’s time for Doughnut Economics, a new model which debunks these old myths, replacing them with seven new insights. She identifies the seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray – from selling us the myth of ‘rational economic man’ to obsessing over growth at all costs – and offers instead an alternative roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet. Ambitious, radical and provocative, she offers a new cutting-edge economic model fit for the challenges of today’s business.

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Paul Hawken brings together an international coalition of leading researchers, scientists and policymakers has come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. All of the techniques described here – some well-known, some you may have never heard of – are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are already enacting them. From revolutionizing how we produce and consume food to educating girls in lower-income countries, these are all solutions which, if deployed collectively on a global scale over the next thirty years, could not just slow the earth’s warming, but reach drawdown: the point when greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere peak and begin todecline. So what are we waiting for?

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

Janine Benyus says that nature has had 3.8 billion years to perfect its inventions. Biomimicry is the idea that we should use nature’s insights and ideas to solve the problems we face in the 21st century. This book is a “Seed Bank of Best Practices” exploring the current biomimicry thinking, methodology, and tools for naturalizing biomimicry into the culture. We believe there is no better design partner than nature. But biomimicry is more than just looking at the shape of a flower or dragonfly and becoming newly inspired; it’s a methodology that’s being used by some of the biggest companies and innovative universities in the world. While reading this text you’ll be immersed into the world of Biomimicry the “verb”, you’ll gain a competitive edge, and a fresh perspective on how the world around us can, does, and should work. After reading the text, you’ll be well on your way to thinking in systems, designing in context, identifying patterns, and most importantly seeing the millions of organisms around us differently.

Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take

Paul Polman is the ex-Unilever CEO who increased his shareholders’ returns by 300% while ensuring the company ranked #1 in the world for sustainability for eleven years running has, for the first time, revealed how to do it. Teaming up with Andrew Winston, he shows business leaders how to take on humanity’s greatest and most urgent challenges—climate change and inequality—and build a thriving business as a result. They explode our most prevalent corporate myths: from the idea that business’ only function is to maximise profits, to the naïve hope that Corporate Social Responsibility will save our species from disaster. These approaches, they argue, are destined for the graveyard. Instead, they show corporate leaders how to make their companies “Net Positive”—thriving by giving back more to the world than they take. Net Positive companies unleash innovation, build trust, attract the best people, thrill customers, and secure lasting success, all by helping create stronger, more inclusive societies and a healthier planet. Heal the world first, they argue, and you’ll satisfy your investors as a result. Is this win-win for business and humanity too good to be true? Don’t believe it. The world’s smartest CEOs are already taking their companies on the Net Positive journey and benefitting as a result. Will you be left behind?

Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism

John Elkington, dubbed the “Godfather of Sustainability”, explores new forms of capitalism fit for the twenty-first century. Green Swans is a manifesto for system change designed to serve people, planet, and prosperity.  If Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “Black Swans” are problems that take us exponentially toward breakdown, then “Green Swans” are solutions that take us exponentially toward breakthrough. The success–and survival–of humanity now depends on how we rein in the first and accelerate the second. Green Swans draws on Elkington’s first-hand experience in some of the world’s best-known boardrooms and C-suites. Using case studies, real-world examples, and profiles on emergent technologies, Elkington shows how the weirdest “Ugly Ducklings” of today’s world may turn into tomorrow’s world-saving Green Swans.

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism

Fumio Sasaki says ‘There’s happiness in having less. If you are anything like how I used to be – miserable, constantly comparing yourself with others, or just believing your life sucks – I think you should try saying goodbye to some of your things”. Sasaki is in his thirties and lives in a tiny studio in Tokyo with three shirts, four pairs of trousers, four pairs of socks and not much else. A few years ago, he realised that owning so much stuff was weighing him down – so he started to get rid of it. In this hit Japanese bestseller, he explores the philosophy behind minimalism and offers a set of straightforward rules – discard it if you haven’t used it in a year; be a borrower; find your uniform; keep photos of the things you love – that can help all of us lead simpler, happier, more fulfilled lives.

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